StopWaste at School


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Bring Your Own Shopping Bags

Students at Alameda High hand painted reusable bags as part of an art project.Students at Alameda High hand painted reusable bags as part of an art project.Starting  January 1, 2013, we won't automatically be given a plastic bag at the local grocery store check-out stand. The Alameda County Waste Management Authority passed a single-use plastic bag ordinance that seeks to encourage the use of reusable bags. While you can still get a paper bag at the checkout stand, if you forget a reusable bag, it will cost 10 cents. (The store keeps the 10 cents to offset the cost of purchasing bags.)

The ordinance has sparked several conversations with friends, family members and folks in the check-out line. While memory strategies vary with reusable shopping bags, I usually carry 3-4 in purse all the time. Other folks have a large stash in their cars. Someone I know keeps a bag of reusable bags on the front door knob while another friend will hang bags on a hook next to the place she normally keeps the shopping list.

As someone who has used reusable bags for years, it hasn't really made a big difference in my shopping "experience". I do struggle to get the items I am purchasing on the conveyor belt, get out my credit card and unpack my reusable bags before the checker can automatically pop my purchases into a plastic bag. It has become my strategy to pull the reusable bags out of my purse first and place them on the conveyor belt ahead of my purchases.

In the big picture, plastic bags are a big problem for the environment. Here are some facts:

  • Plastic bags are one of the most common items found in creeks, storm drains and streets.
  • Storm drain cleanup costs Alameda County cities approximately $4 million every year and plastic bags are the most prevalent items found in storm drains.
  • Approximately 10,000 tons of plastic bags find their way to Alameda County landfills every year.
  • One reusable bag can replace 600 single-use bags over its lifetime.

~ Posted by Roberta Miller~ Posted by Roberta MillerWhat strategies do you use to remember your reusable shopping bags?  Let me know in the comments below and I will share them with others.

If you want more information about the ordinance, visit www.ReusableBags

Mason Jar Luminaria

The best way to reuse a mason jar in the fall is to wash it out and use it to preserve some of your garden's harvest, but occassionally, you'll find a jar with cracked or chipped edges.

Before you toss the jar in the recycling bin, consider other reuse projects such as this one that I recently saw on a craft project website. It was part of an expansive list on canning jar reuse projects. While following the project instructions, I made some changes, incorporating more found and reused materials. Here is my take on the project.

Materials Needed:

  • Glass jar, quart canning jars work great
  • Tissue paper
  • Paint brush
  • Mod Podge or other decoupage medium
  • Water
  • Ribbon
  • Buttons
  • Decorative paper or fabric scraps
  • Plastic mesh bag, like those used for bulk produce
  • Small pillar or tea light candle


1. Cut or tear paper into roughly 2 inch squares.

2. Apply a coat of Mod Podge or decoupage medium to the jar.

3. Apply paper squares to the jar, making sure that square overlap between ¼ and ½ inches.

4. Once the jar is completely covered with paper, apply a light coat of water using the paint brush, to the paper squares. This will create a bit of wrinkly texture to the paper as well as encouraging the paper to mold more closely to the jar. Let dry.

5. Cut a 3 ½ inch strip of the mesh bag. Using the Mod Podge, apply the mesh strip to the jar. Cover the entire jar exterior with a layer or two of Mod Podge.

6. Apply the decorative elements like ribbon, buttons or paper and apply another coat of Mod Podge to seal. I used more of the mesh bag to use as a bow around the top and a few mylar stars.

Safety Warning! If using flammable elements near the jar opening, be sure that they do not exceed the jar rim as they could catch fire.

7. Place the candle inside jar, once jar is dry.

Here's a luminaria using the same basic technique but using a brown paper bag, butterflies cut from wrapping paper and squares cut from a fabric belt. I also used a coat of Glitter Mod Podge to add a little bling. This same look could be achieved with a light dusting of glitter to wet decoupage medium. I finished the jar with a bit of raffia around the top. Both jars add a nice warmth to a room when they have a candle inside.

Other mason jar reuse projects can be found here.

FrankenSock Bottle Cozy

For years, I have been trying to find a way to keep my water bottle cold and dry. The metal reusable bottles are the best as they survive my less-than-gentle-and -graceful treatment. My strategy is to fill a bottle half way with water, pop it in the freezer. When I am ready to leave for the day, I fill the remaining space in the bottle with water and drop it in my bag. Condensation creates a bit of damp exterior, making a mess of any book or paper product also in my bag.

In an attempt to solve this problem, I started using a sock, which worked pretty well but, frankly, looked weird. So, I took the aesthetics into consideration. Here is my reuse solution. If FrankenSock gets dirty, throw it in the wash with the rest of the socks.


  • Reusable bottle (I used a Giant's bottle that I picked up at a game)
  • 1 sock, preferable with a hole
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread


1) Lay the sock on a flat, hard surface. Cut it just above the heel, straight across. Set aside the top part of the sock.

2) Remove the heel from the bottom part of the sock.

3) Cover the bottom of the bottle with the bottom portion of the sock.

4) Cover the top portion of the bottle with the top portion of the sock, adjusting the overlap so that it doesn't over the bottle mouth.

5) Using the needle and thread, stitch the two pieces together. While I haven't tried it, I would assume you could probably use glue to attach the two pieces, being careful not to glue the sock to the bottle.

6) Should the creative bug strike you, embellish with buttons, ribbon or other interesting bits. I left mine plain as the sock pattern was interesting enough for me.

Zipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap Charm

Zipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap CharmZipper Bracelet with Bottle Cap CharmMaterials Needed:
  • Metal zipper, click 6 or 7 inches
  • Wire, 4 inches
  • Lobster claw jewelry clasp
  • Jewelry pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Metal bottle cap
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Scissors
  • Clear glue or Mod Podge
  • Paper image, picture from catalog or photograph
  • Jump ring, 1



1. Remove fabric portion of the zipper. Cut the fabric fairly close to the metal zipper teeth.

Cut Away FabricCut Away Fabric Cleaned ZipperCleaned Zipper

2. Bend the wire in half, forming a U. Thread the lobster claw clasp onto the wire and let it rest at the bend. Grasp the bend with the jewelry pliers and grasp the wire ends and twist the ends twice. The lobster claw should dangle freely.

Assemble Lobster Claw AttachmentAssemble Lobster Claw Attachment

3. Place the twisted wire on top of the end of the zipper (not the end with the pull tab). Wrap the wire around the zipper several times. Trim off any extra wire. Press the wrapped wire against the zipper with the pliers. Your bracelet is done. Now for the fun part, ornamentation!

Attach to ZipperAttach to Zipper Attached ClawAttached Claw

4. Using the hammer, flatten the bottle cap.

5. Place flattened bottle cap on top of the image and trace around the cap.

6. Using scissors, cut out the image. I removed an extra ¼ inch so the image could be centered on the cap, allowing the ruffled edge of the cap to show.

7. Glue the image onto the cap. Cover with Mod Podge or clear glue and allow to dry. I mixed some glitter glue into the clear glue for a bit of "bling".

Bottle Cap CharmBottle Cap Charm

8. Make a hole in the cap by hammering the nail into the cap.

9. Use the jump ring to attach the bottle cap charm to the bracelet.

Completed BraceletCompleted Bracelet

Magnetic Bulletin Board and Magnets

Recently I stumbled upon the book "Rediscovered Treasures: A New Life for Old Objects" by Ellen Dyrop and Hanna Kristindottir. It is full of amazing ideas to turn vintage items into new things. I was inspired to recreate my own version of one of their projects.

My neighborhood hosts a once-a-month antique fair which is prime habitat for the bargain hunter. During a recent foray, medications I found a serving tray with some rust spots. After a bit of back and forth with the dealer, sick I was able to purchase the tray for a few dollars. It was fodder for my thrifty and creative spirit.


  • Metal tray
  • Paper towel
  • Ribbon, sildenafil cord, fabric
  • 6 bottle caps
  • 6 magnets
  • Clear school glue or Mod Podge
  • Caulk or contact adhesive
  • Paper
  • Glitter
  • Toothpick or other sharp implement



1. Wash and dry the tray.
2. Tie the ribbon, cord or fabric on each handle. I used 3 pieces of t-shirt (strips or 2 inches wide and 36 inches long) which I braided.


1. Chose the words and phrases you would like to use. Print or copy them onto paper

2. Trace around the word and trim away excess.

Create words or images for the inside of the bottle cap magnetsCreate words or images for the inside of the bottle cap magnets

3. Put a drop or 2 of glue onto the back of the paper and place it into the bottle cap.

4. Arrange glitter, confetti or other decorative bits on the paper.

Assemble CapsAssemble Caps

5. Cover with clear glue or Mod Podge. Remove any air bubbles with the tooth pick. I really like to use clear glues or Mod Podge because you can see through it and adjust the bits as needed.

Cover With Clear GlueCover With Clear Glue

6. Let the glue dry over night.

7. Place a dollop of caulk or contact adhesive onto a small magnet and press bottle cap onto magnet.


8. Let dry. Arrange finished magnets onto the tray and hang tray on wall.

Finished Magnetic BoardFinished Magnetic Board

Paper Carton Wallet

The Spring 2011 Leadership and Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) at Camp Arroyo featured a wide range of craft and creative reuse activities.

Cynthia Ashley from the East Bay Depot For Creative Reuse shared a workshop teaching the construction of wallets or small pouches from waxed gabletop cartons (1/2 gallon waxed cardboard milk & juice containers with plastic screwtop lids were ideal for the project)

Templates and instructions for the activity are available here:

Check out the photos below to see the creations and creatvie process from LEAF.

View the embedded image gallery online at:

Crafting Hope

~ by Roberta Miller~ by Roberta MillerRecently I came across a wonderful book called Craft Hope. The author, Jade Sims, has combined creative endeavors with making a difference in the 
world. She started her efforts by calling for handmade pillow case dresses for a children's shelter in Mexico. Within a few weeks, she had received 27 dresses in the mail from like minded folks. Her next project was making dolls for an orphanage in Nicaragua. Soon the Craft Hope community grew beyond her wildest dreams, allowing her to provide patterns and ideas to crafters internationally. But, this is much more than an "isn't-that-a-creative-idea" book. The author provides 32 project ideas AND connections to appropriate charities to which we can send our finished projects. This connection is unique in my experience and makes the connection to Service Learning.

My particular interest in the book is that many of the projects utilize reused and salvaged materials that can be turned into something fabulous. A prime example is the Simple-Knot Newborn Cap on page 35. The sleeves of t-shirts are used to create caps for tiny newborns that help them retain body heat and increase survival. When I teach the t-shirt reusable bag project, inevitably there are t-shirt sleeves left over. Making caps would be a perfect way to repurpose these cut off sleeves.

Some of the projects require basic sewing skills and sewing machines. This may be out of the reach for many, but if students can do a basting stitch by hand, they can create some great items.

Your students can investigate a local charity or underserved community, assess the need and find a way to help out. This book can give you some ideas. If nothing else, the book will serve as inspiration.

Rethink Back-to-School Shopping

Back to School Already?

Every year it seems that summer flies by even faster. It seems like we were just working on school locker clean outs and sorting through year end projects. However, with the start of school just a few days away, now is the best time to start thinking about school and classroom supplies. I would recommend a trip to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, 4695 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA. 510-547-6470. The Depot gets materials donated from the general public as well as businesses for reuse to teachers, artists and the community. If you go to the back of the store, you will find their teacher resource center. Lots of pens, paper, markers, paints, tins and other consumables can be found at the Depot as well as other things you just didn't know you had to have. If you have stuff left over from last school year that you know you won't use, bring it with you for donation.

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

Another excellent source for good school supplies is the Resource Area for Teachers, as known as RAFT. While it may seem like a long drive to San Jose, the supplies make the trip well worth it. The materials found at RAFT come largely from businesses. RAFT features all kinds of office supplies like staplers, staple removers as well as paints, calendars, binders, organizers, paper, stickers and lots more. In RAFT's Green Room, teachers can find a large collection of Ellison dies for use by members. In addition, you'll find paper cutters, book binding equipment, a computer, a button maker, a copier and laminator. Green Room Gatherings are informal drop-in mini workshops that take place on select Thursdays between 5:00pm and 6:00pm and Saturday mornings between 9:30am and 12:00pm. They are fun and FREE. Check out the RAFT website for more details: Be sure to check out the lesson plans and kits which include supplies for 20 students.

Resource Area for Teachers

The website Earth911 has a great article on how to save on school supplies. For more information, here is the article. 

Challenge yourself to reduce the amount of waste you generate at school and home and have a great school year!

Books on Reuse: My Personal Favorites

~by Roberta Miller~by Roberta MillerOver the years, I have collected a few books that features elements of reuse. A couple of folks have asked for suggestions on titles that might be helpful, so here is my non-exhaustive list.

50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers50 Fabulous Flea Market Makeovers by BJ Berti- There are several books in this series that challenge us to look differently at the trinkets, treasure and doo dads that can be found at flea markets.  I love the ethic of conservation that is so intrinsic to these books.  They share techniques and ideas for taking furniture, fabrics and nicknacks and turning them into something unusual.  My personal favorites are the pressed glass lamps.  The author show us how to take apart a lamp she found at a flea market, clean , rewire and reassemble.  She also goes into how to recover a lampshade.  In the back is a section on basic techniques that are alone worth the price of the book.  She recommends peanut butter to remove stubborn price stickers or tape from glass and toothpaste to polish and remove light stains from marble


869 New Uses for Old Things869 New Uses for Old Things

Real Simple's 869 New Uses for old Things
- This book would have made my father and  MacGyver proud.  It espouses the virtue of toothpicks, aluminum foil, tape, candle wax, dryer sheets and tennis balls for uses other than their intended purpose.  It is a great help for the thrifty and creative.  My personal favorites are the vinegar as weed killer and stain remover and cupcake pan used as a way to keep office supplies like paper clips and rubber bands separate.  (The cupcake pan was invaluable during the recent assembly of a piece of furniture from Ikea!  All those different screws and hinges!) An entire page is spent on the virtues of dental floss, besides oral hygiene


Craft Challenge: Tea TowelsCraft Challenge: Tea TowelsCraft Challenge: Tea Towels and Pillow Cases- Both of these books feature examples of reuses for what are often forgotten raw materials.  In helping a friend clear out the linen cabinet when a relative passed away, we found some gorgeous hand embroidered pillow cases.  The thought of turning these into rags was more than we could contemplate.  While the books require a bit more sewing skill than many folks have, they are worth contemplating.  I am looking forward to finding other books in this series.  My personal favorite are all the different bags.  She features picnic basket/bags on the cover which is absolutely charming.  I also loved the pillow case dog bed which can be washed when needed and the blouses featuring embroidered scenes commonly found on vintage pillow cases

Salvage StyleSalvage StyleSalvage Style- 45 Home and Garden Projects Using Reclaimed Architectural Details by Joe Rhatigan and Dana Irwin - In the SF Bay Area, it is getting harder and harder to find the really charming salvage home parts for cheap.  That is a good thing because it means we value these resources but a challenge for us of the frugal bent.  Several visits to relatives in the Midwest have included adventures to salvage yards with some amazing results.  The author of this book features lots of lovely projects made from materials I saw a lot of in the Midwest.  The reused mirror and window projects are so inspiring.  I used the plant stand made from 4 shutters recently, putting a tall candle inside and slightly opening the shutters.  Another project are bookends made from broken marble pieces glued to salvaged molding (for stability.)

Junk ChicJunk Chic

Junk Chic by Kathryn Elliot
features more pictures of projects in rooms for design purposes.  My personal favorite is a table she made from a short leather-bound trunk.  She attached legs on the bottom to raise it off the floor.  The legs were made from wooden handrail spindles but she also suggests that the decorative portion of a fence post could be used


American JunkAmerican JunkAmerican Junk by Mary Randolph Carter - There are lots of interesting ideas about how to shop at a flea market and what to look for.  I found her section on lampshades inspiring.  Mary Randolph Carter has written 3 more books on reuse that are just as inspiring: Big City Junk, Kitchen Junk and Garden Junk.  My personal favorite is the section on chairs.  I found a wonderful wooden chair at the flea market but it lacked the cane seat.  I used a scrap piece of plywood, padded it with foam and used a vintage curtain fabric scrap as the cover.  It turned out to be the perfect accent piece for the guest bedroom


If any other titles have been inspiring to you, please log in and  let me know in the comments section below.


While I am on the topic of reuse, a friend sent me a great link about aluminum foil.  It shares ways to use the ubiquitous stuff in ways we hadn't thought of:

Silk Flower Pin or Magnet

Silk Flower PinSilk Flower PinYet another project I love! Perhaps I should stop saying this in my introductions. I found this idea on Vintage Image Craft and thought I could repurpose the project. Here is my take on this project. Lots of silk flowers (actually nylon most of the time) end up at thrift stores or garage sales. Discarded floral arrangements can be a bounty for the thrifty and creative.

Materials needed:

  • silk flowers - several colors and shapes, daisies, hydrangeas and chrysanthemums work great
  • water based glue like Mod Podge and/or Tacky Glue 
    paint brush 
    flat backed marbles or globs 
    picture or saying printed on heavier weight paper 
    marking pen 
    pin back or magnet 
    felt (I found EcoFi, a felt made from post consumer plastic bottles at Michael's)+ 
    plastic wrap or other surface protector (the address portion of a FedEx envelop works perfectly!)


1)  Pull the flowers apart, removing the plastic center and stems. You should have layers of flower shapes.

Flower_BundleFlower_Bundle Loose FlowersLoose Flowers

2)  Prepare the paper that will serve as the flower center.  Place the glob on top of the paper and trace around it with a pen. Cut along the line.

Trace Paper CenterTrace Paper Center

3. Using the paint brush, put a thin coat of glue on the flat part of the glob and apply the paper center you have just cut out.  The image may be a bit cloudy until the glue dries.  Let the glue dry until clear before proceeding with the project.

Apply GlueApply Glue image010image010

4. Stack the flower layers. I like to use 2 or 3, depending on the type of flower I am using. Glue the flower layers together, maintaining the center. I put a toothpick in the center hole and remove it as the glue starts to dry.

Glued Flower StackGlued Flower Stack

5. Once the glob and the flower stack are dry, you can assemble the pin. Put more glue on the back of the glob and attach it to the flower stack. I place the piece on a piece of plastic wrap with a stapler on top to maintain a little pressure and encourage maximum stick-age. Let this dry for a couple of hours.

Apply Pressure to StackApply Pressure to Stack

6.  Now you have to decide if you are making a pin or magnet.  For a magnet, just glue a dot magnet on to the flower back, let dry and you are done!

Adding a MagnetAdding a Magnet

For the pin, glue the pin back onto the flower. I cut a small piece of green felt over the pin back, cutting notches for the pin clasps. Glue on the felt. Let it dry thoroughly before wearing.

Attaching a PinAttaching a Pin


  • If any of the glue gets onto the glob face(which it will), it can be removed with your fingernail or a green kitchen scouring pad.
  • Watch the amount of glue you use to attach the paper to the glob.  Sometimes an excess of glue will cause inks to run, which can look interesting but not be your intended effect.
  • Mod Podge makes different types of glue.  The "glitter" and "shimmer" types are really fun.  I used a little of the glitter glue on the flower petals.

Finished PinsFinished Pins